“Like another human being in the room”: A community case study of smart speakers to reduce loneliness in the oldest-old

Arlene Astell*, David Clayton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This community case study examined the potential benefits of smart speakers to tackle loneliness in the oldest old adults living in supported accommodation. The program was established as a collaboration between the supported accommodation provider and a technology company to explore the feasibility of smart speakers to alleviate resident loneliness. Loneliness in later life often accompanies a shrinking social circle, loss of a spouse or increased disability. People aged 85 years of age and over are increasingly likely to experience these life events, leading to an increased risk of social isolation and loneliness.Five older people, mean age 90 years of age, who resided in supported accommodation, were given a smart speaker for 8 weeks to examine their experience with the voice assistant.The experiences of the five older adults are explored as case studies, with each person interviewed both before and after receiving the smart speaker. All five valued their smart speaker, recognised its potential for tackling loneliness, and wanted to keep it. The three most lonely individuals reported that their smart speaker made them feel less lonely and isolated through two mechanisms: (i) creating a presence and (ii) having some control over their situation. Although only a small study, these experiences suggest providing smart speakers for lonely and isolated oldest-old people, could be one way to help combat loneliness in community settings.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Mar 2024

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